Tag Archives: Roman Roads

Did Paul Visit Albania?

On his Third Missionary Journey Paul wrote the following to the Church in Rome.

Rom. 15:18–19 “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.”

AlbaniaMapPart of the heartland of Illyricum included modern day Albania.  When would Paul have visited Illyricum—such a visit is not mentioned in Acts?  Possibly on his Second and/or Third Missionary Journeys.  How would he have gotten there?  It seems logical to assume that he would have traveled  on the via Egnatia—as he did on his Second Journey from Philippi to Amphipolis, to Appolonia, to Thessalonica, etc.  And from Thessalonica he could have continued on the same road west to Illyricum.

In May of 2015 my wife and I had the privilege of joining a group led by Dr. Mark Wilson that traced the route and stopping points along the via Egnatia—the Roman road that led from Dyrrhachium and Appolonia on the shore of the Adriatic Sea to Byzantium.  The construction of the via Egnatia began in the second century B.C. and it eventually reached a length of 696 miles.

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View of the remains of Ad Quintum (“At Five [miles]”)—a place where riders would change their horses (mutatio). The row of arches in the center of the image are evidently remnants of a monumental water fountain (nymphaeum) that was built into the hill. On the left, with some protective covering, is the area where there was a Roman Bath.

A Roman bath at Ad Quintum, a change–over station (mutatio) on the via Egnatia, is very well–preserved. It was discovered after a landslide in 1968. It was listed in the Bordeaux Itinerary of A.D. 333.   Although “change-over stations” (mutatio—where horses were changed by official couriers) are well­–known from literary sources, but only few have been identified archaeologically.  Ad Quintum is located a few miles west of the modern Elbasan (ancient Scampis) in Albania.

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View of the remains of the interior of the Roman Bath at Ad Quintum (“At Five [miles]”)—a place where riders would change their horses (mutatio). Note the frescos on the wall, the steps, and the terra cotta brick work of the arches above the doors.

The current ancient constructions at Ad Quintum are thought to date to the 2nd–4th centuries A.D. (Note from Dr. Mark Wilson).  To view additional images of the remains at Ad Quintum Click Here.

EgnatiaAramcoThe above map of the via Egnatia is from a wonderful article in AramcoWorld.

To view a Roman Bridge on the via Egnatia Click Here.

 

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Paul on the Road to Assos (Asia Minor/Turkey)

Please don’t miss the important discussion in the comments to this post.

Towards the end of Paul’s Third Missionary Journey on his way to Jerusalem Paul stopped for about at week at (Alexandria) Troas (Acts 20:5-12; map below).  From there he walked by foot from Troas to Assos while his seven companions traveled by sea to Assos (Acts 20:13–14).

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A portion of the well-preserved Roman Road that leads, 31 mi., from Troas to Assos — See image below for instructive details
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

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Paul probably walked south from Troas to the Smintheion area and then turned east to Assos — the 31 mi. journey took over 2 days to complete
Enhanced map from the Pelagios Map Project — See Reference Below

The distance from Troas to Assos, “as the crow flies,” is about 21 miles while the Roman Road south out of Troas through the Smintheion areaa and then east to Assos covers a distance of about 31 mi.  Thus the walk must have taken him at least two days.

The Bible does not say why Paul chose to walk instead of taking the ship but Dr. Mark Wilson suggests that Paul may have received a prophetic word at Troas that imprisonment would await him in Jerusalem (compare Paul’s message at Miletus to the elders from the Ephesian church; Acts 20:22-23).  Wilson suggests that he may have been reflecting on the impact of this in light of his recent successes:

  • Three productive years at Ephesus and the spread of the gospel throughout the province of Asia
  • Recent resolution of the conflicts at Corinth
  • Successful fund-raising for the relief of the Jerusalem Church

Wilson goes on to compare the reflective agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42) to Paul’s solitary reflective walk from Troas to Assos:

“So somewhere on the road between the harbor  at Troas . . . and the city gate at Assos Paul apparently accepted his personal cup of suffering.”
(Wilson, Biblical Turkey, p. 360)

References

Map from Pelagius Map Project (free).  [This is the most accurate map of Turkey during the Classical Period based upon the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Classical World; $376]

“In-Site — Paul’s Walk to Assos,” p. 360 in Biblical Turkey — A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor.  This 398-page book is filled with Wilson’s wonderful descriptions and insights on numerous biblical and extra biblical sites in Turkey.

For additional high-resolution images of Assos click Here and Here.